(OAKLAND, Calif.) — Oakland, California, lost its third police chief in nine days Friday as the city’s embattled police force grapples with allegations of sexual misconduct.
Oakland Police Assistant Chief Paul Figueroa was acting chief for two days before stepping down. Mayor Libby Schaaf said Figueroa’s decision was unrelated to the scandal enveloping the Oakland Police Department.
“He has gone on leave and has asked to return, as is his right, in the position of captain. I will not be appointing another acting chief,” Schaaf told a news conference Friday night.
Instead, the mayor put city administrator Sabrina Landreth in charge.
“This is an appropriate time to place civilian oversight over the police department and to send a clear message about how serious we are of not tolerating misconduct, unethical behavior, and to root out what is clearly a toxic and macho culture,” Schaaf said. “I want to assure the citizens of Oakland we are hell bent on rooting out this disgusting culture and holding those accountable responsible for their misdeeds.”
How It Started
Last month, the Oakland Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division launched an internal investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct involving three police officers. The officers under investigation were placed on paid administrative leave, the department said in a statement at the time.
“The Oakland Police Department will not tolerate misconduct of any kind from its employees,” it said in the statement. “The Oakland Police Department holds all employees accountable for their actions on and off duty.”
The statement, which included no details about the allegations, did not name the officers, and police have not responded to ABC News’ request for comment.
The young woman at the center of the scandal has told local media she had sex with at least 14 officers from the Oakland Police Department. She said she slept with three of these officers before she turned 18 last August.
The woman said she met one of the officers after she had turned to prostitution. She told the Bay Area News Group they started a sexual relationship and the others soon followed.
The first officer reportedly committed suicide in September 2015. According to the East Bay Express, police sources said the officer “left a suicide note that included information about the alleged sex crimes.”
The Scandal Spreads
The Oakland Police Department is not the only agency affected by the scandal. An inspector in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office was put on administrative leave in a possible connection, according to ABC station KGO-TV in San Francisco.
“While it is our practice not to discuss pending investigations, I can firmly state that we do not and will not turn a blind eye to human trafficking or the sexual exploitation of a minor, whether the offender is a civilian or a law enforcement officer,” Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said. “The alleged conduct of the officers in this matter is not in line with what our office and the wider community feel is acceptable for those who are sworn to protect and serve.”
Two police chiefs had stepped down before Figueroa did so Friday. Earlier this month, Schaaf announced the resignation of Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent, who was with the department for 19 years.
A release from Schaaf’s office quoted Whent as saying the resignation was a “personal choice.”
Schaaf appointed BART Deputy Police Chief Ben Fairow as interim chief on June 9. But Schaaf relieved Fairow of his duties Wednesday, saying that after learning new information she felt she had made a mistake with the appointment.
“I take responsibility for this decision,” the mayor said at a news conference. “The information that I received raised concerns for me about whether he can effectively lead this department at this particular moment in time and during this critical transition.”
Fairow did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
Although Schaaf didn’t reveal what information led her to dismiss Fairow, ABC News learned he had a sexual relationship years before that was unrelated to the department’s scandal. BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey said in a statement Fairow had “a personal relationship with a consenting adult, more than a decade ago” while he was married.
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